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Los Angeles v. Los Angeles Gas & Elec. Corp., 251 U.S. 32 (1919)

Los Angeles v. Los Angeles Gas & Electric Corporation

No. 50

Argued October 23, 1919

Decided December 8, 1919

251 U.S. 32


A distinction is to be drawn between the powers of a city, when acting in its governmental capacity -- i.e., the police powers -- and those which belong to it in its proprietary or quasi-private capacity. P. 251 U. S. 38.

Merely for the sake of establishing a lighting system of its own, a city has no right to displace or remove without compensation the fixtures of a lighting company already occupying the streets in virtue of rights guaranteed by its franchise. P. 251 U. S. 37.

Declarations in an ordinance to the effect that speedy establishment of a municipal lighting system, and therein the removal or relocation of poles and other fixtures maintained in the streets by the owners of other lighting systems, are necessary for the public peace, health,

Page 251 U. S. 33

and safety, do not suffice to convert such acts of interference into a legitimate exercise of police power. Pp. 251 U. S. 34, 251 U. S. 38.

A franchise to use the streets for supplying a city and it inhabitants with electric light, acquired under the California Constitution, Art. XI, § 19, before the amendment of 1911, conveys contract rights which the city is not at liberty to destroy, and the property employed in their exercise cannot be taken by the city without due process of law -- the payment of compensation. P. 251 U. S. 39. Russell v. Sebastian, 233 U. S. 195.

241 F. 912 affirmed.

The case is stated in the opinion.

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